Understanding the psychiatric discussion thus far
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, reports have surfaced that shooter Adam Lanza suffered from some sort of mental disability or disorder, the exact nature of which is thus far a matter of dispute. Neighbors have described Lanza as odd, remote, and reclusive ; schoolmates recall him as a brainiac, with a flat affect; and a longtime family friend reveals that Adam lacked the ability to feel pain. His brother, Ryan Lanza, told ABC news that Adam "is autistic, or has Asperger syndrome and a 'personality disorder.'" Police authorities, meanwhile, have alluded to the shooter's "checkered past," calling him a "troubled youth."
Greater diagnostic clarity on this matter will emerge within the next few weeks as friends and doctors who knew Adam Lanza come forward to aid law enforcement in their investigation. Until it does, it may help to understand some of the diagnoses in question:
Autism: Autism is a disorder characterized by difficulty with social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive and restrictive behaviors and interests. It is currently estimated to affect 1 in 88 children born in America. Diagnosis is usually made between ages 2 and 6. While children with severe autism can have violent outbursts, there is no known link between autism and premeditated violence.